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Dental clinics upgrade sanitation procedures while struggling with PPE shortage

Many Houston-area dentists still cannot open due to short supply of gloves, gowns and masks.

HOUSTON — Houston’s dental clinics have implemented new procedures to adhere to Texas mandates and to keep patients and staff members safe amid the coronavirus crisis.

At the same time, many dentists are struggling with a PPE shortage.

At the Smile Texas dental clinic in Sugar Land, Dr. Rick Kline, D.D.S., said dental visits are safer for patients today than at any other point in history.

“I think these measures are here to stay,” Kline said. “It gives me more peace knowing that they are in place.”

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There is no longer a need for a waiting room at Kline’s clinic, where patients wait in their cars until they are ready to be seen.

Patients are pre-screened prior to their appointments. Once they are called, they are given masks and have their temperatures checked. Then they are led to rooms that have been fogged with anti-viral spray, and are ventilated by medical grade, virus-killing air filtration systems.

“We’ve been experts at this for 30 years,” Kline said about upgrading the sanitation procedures.

At the same time, many Houston-area dentists are still unable to open for business.

“There are many practices that have had to postpone being open because they just can’t get their hands on the necessary PPE,” said Dr. Terri Alani, D.D.S. with the Greater Houston Dental Society.

Alani said her clinic has been able to work around the shortage by conserving what they already have.

“We’re putting a level-three mask over our N-95 masks to preserve the life of them,” Alani said. “So we are ‘double masking.'”

Alani said shipments of gloves and gowns are all on back order. She said dentists are having the most trouble procuring the N-95 masks.

Alani said patients are certainly safe. Her concern is for the dentists.

“There is a shortage of PPE for dentists,” Alani said. “So if there are any companies out there hearing this, we could use the help. No question about it. We’re doing our best to help service our patients, but yet, we need help for making sure we have protection for everyone involved.”

Coronavirus symptoms

The symptoms of coronavirus can be similar to the flu or a bad cold. Symptoms include a fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Some patients also have nausea, body aches, headaches and stomach issues. Losing your sense of taste and/or smell can also be an early warning sign.

Most healthy people will have mild symptoms. A study of more than 72,000 patients by the Centers for Disease Control in China showed 80 percent of the cases there were mild.

But infections can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death, according to the World Health Organization. Older people with underlying health conditions are most at risk for becoming seriously ill. However, U.S. experts are seeing a significant number of younger people being hospitalized, including some in ICU.

The CDC believes symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 14 days after being exposed.

Human coronaviruses are usually spread through...

  • The air by coughing or sneezing
  • Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.

Help stop the spread of coronavirus

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Eat and sleep separately from your family members
  • Use different utensils and dishes
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with your arm, not your hand.
  • If you use a tissue, throw it in the trash.
  • Follow social distancing

Lower your risk

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • If you are 60 or over and have an underlying health condition such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or respiratory illnesses like asthma or COPD, the World Health Organization advises you to try to avoid crowds or places where you might interact with people who are sick.

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